George Church on the future of genome editing

I sat down with geneticist George Church to talk about perhaps the most ambitious scientific project yet attempted–directing human evolution.

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Alex Harsley is an unsung doyen of New York photography

My story about Alex Harsley for the Economist

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At the 4th Street Photo Gallery on the corner of the Bowery, silver-gelatin prints are strung together like clothes on a laundry line. There are portraits of Muhammad Ali and Jean-Michel Basquiat, plus a series of vintage cityscapes meticulously captured over 60 years by Alex Harsley, an unsung doyen of New York photography.

The city has been Mr Harsley’s home since 1948, when, aged ten, he moved there from South Carolina. He took his first photograph ten years later, and became the first black photographer to work for the city’s district attorney’s office. His scintillating pictures freeze moments in New York’s evolution from the 1950s to the present. “It could start with the smell of something burning,” he says of his method. “And then you see a family sitting on the steps of a funeral home pensively looking at the firemen going through their routine.”

Some of the scenes in the collection were captured from the window of his old apartment in Harlem; they include images of black activists, streets submerged in snow and shots of the Crown Heights riots of 1991. A.D. Coleman, a photography critic, says Mr Harsley has been able to capture the lives of minority groups by making himself “invisible”. His aim has been to assemble these fragments into an extended history of the city.

Mr Harsley’s gallery is a time capsule. But, as it has been for decades, it is also a hub for the city’s artistic underworld. In the 1970s New York’s photography scene was flourishing, but exclusive. As Mr Harsley puts it, “a number of great artists were swept aside” because they lacked connections. Nurturing talent became part of his mission. In 1971 he established The Minority Photographers, an outfit that helps up-and-coming artists exhibit their work. He opened his gallery two years later; many photographers have had their first shows there. Mr Harsley curated work by Andres Serrano and David Hammons, among others. “It was kind of a school for me,” says Dawoud Bey, a photographer and one of the beneficiaries; “a one-room schoolhouse in the East Village.”

“Sit down, start talking,” Mr Harsley would tell his visitors. In recent years, though, the neighbourhood around his gallery has changed as rents have risen. Some venerable retailers have been forced out. But Mr Harsley, who turned 80 last year, describes himself as a survivor. On warm mornings he still pedals his bicycle across the George Washington Bridge; the vintage sports car he parks in front of the gallery is a neighbourhood attraction. These days he works late as he digitises his archive, and keeps the doors open till midnight. “The Lower East Side keeps me in line,” he laughs.

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This article appeared in the Books and arts section of the print edition under the headline “A schoolroom in the Village”

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On a project in Saint-Petersburg, Russia

The story follows a youth art group called “Party of the Dead” based in Saint-Petersburg, and a strange case in which an artwork they created was ordered to be destroyed by the Russian court.

During a major demonstration in May, 2018 one of the members of the group was carrying a framed poster. The police confiscated the work and detained the woman who carried it. In a surprising twist, the court then has ruled that the artwork has to be destroyed. And the woman who carried it — a human rights advocate, Varvara Mikhailova — has to pay a huge fine.
We followed the story, and spent some time with the members of the group to understand what makes them tick.

 

 

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Videos produced for the WSJ

Bitcoin Gamble:

 

Colleges in the Crossfire:

 

Bits and pieces of other works, my reel:

 

 

 

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Above Moscow with Russian Spiderman

Sergei Devlyashov is a roofer and a self proclaimed Russian Spiderman, who likes to spend his free time on top of the highest buildings — hanging, climbing, running and performing crazy acrobatic stunts with no safety ropes. This stuff is extremely dangerous—hanging 500 feet up means that slightest mistake will turn tragic. It is also illegal. But Sergei is very passionate about his work.

He took us to the top of the construction site in Moscow. It was breathtaking.

Originally appeared at Heat Street:

http://heatst.com/life/exclusive-watch-russian-spiderman-risk-life-and-limb-high-above-moscow/

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Police Officer Secretly Paints For 25 Years, Leaves Behind Incredible Collection

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Standing in front of a painting by Richard De Cosmis – in his improvised garage studio in
Weehawken, NJ – was a revelation in many ways.

Broken turbulent lines depicted a figure of a man, his torso bent, placed against an abstract background. It was reminiscent of the contorted bodies in the works of Michelangelo and Francis Bacon. But the painting had its own unique style. Who is this artist?

Richard De Cosmis was a police officer. He died last year, leaving behind a large collection of paintings and drawings, as well as a mystery yet to be solved: why did he keep his passion and talent to himself producing over 100 paintings in seclusion, over the last 25 years? I was one of the few people to see the collection while it was being catalogued by the family, who still didn’t know what to do with all these works.

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A series of paintings in which figures are huddled together, positioned off balance, slumping over each other’s shoulder, or even as if floating weightless in midair, are simply striking. His family tells me that De Cosmis began painting after retiring from his 30 years of service as a police officer.

A self-taught painter, and a total outsider in the art world. A great number of books, sketches, and notes scattered throughout the studio suggest that he was, in fact, very conscious about what it was he was trying to achieve. I look through some of his handwritten notes: “Traditional out. Paint: or quit!”, “Essentials: mood, emotions, tension”, “Forget realism”, “Reduce Definitions”, “Negative space needs movement.” In one note he also admits being influenced by the New York School of Art and Bay Area Figurative Painters, but yet not following any formal academic principle in painting.

What is it that influenced De Cosmis’ work? Or perhaps even more curious – what inspired him to paint in the first place? It might be a mystery. As I stood in his studio surrounded by his works, I realized that it wasn’t just about passing the time. He had great instinct and sensibility, as well as a need to express something… Maybe it was about “crystalizing” the moment of one’s existence in a Proustian way, as all we have.

De Cosmis painted what was real. He stripped down the reality of a situation and illustrated it as a sensation. His paintings and drawings reflect what he was most familiar with – they are expressions of his experiences. Experiences of the futility of being, and the violence of life.

“He was quick to destroy his painting if he didn’t like it,” says his son Richard De Cosmis Jr., who is also a police officer, adding that his father would spend most of his day in the studio painting, but no one in the family could really comprehend what was motivating him.

De Cosmis showed his works to few, mostly his family. He didn’t visit museums and didn’t have interactions with other artists. Apparently, art books were his only point of reference, and there were plenty of them in the studio.

I then asked him what he saw in his father’s works and he said, “things he dealt with as a police officer.

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All of his brushes and tools are still on the table. A collection of art books- De Kooning, Kokoschka, Francis Bacon, Matisse, Muybridge’s “Human Figure in Motion” resting on the bookshelves. And one unfinished painting still on the wall.

His son revealed that De Cosmis, while being very serious about his works, never looked for public recognition. “He had a one man show once,” he explains, “and then never wanted to have another. He had offers to sell his paintings then, but he refused to put a price on them or to part with them.”

 

This story originally appeared at Heat Street:

http://heatst.com/life/police-officer-secretly-paints-for-25-years-leaves-behind-incredible-collection/

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With director Heiner Goebblels and incredible soprano Evgenia Sotnikova

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and the story at Harper’s:

http://www.bazaar.ru/culture/heroes/rezhisser-khayner-gyebbels-pustaya-stsena-vo-vremya-spektaklya-shag-navstrechu-voobrazheniyu-zritelya/

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